Hi, it is the boy from Barrystown; it would be an idle and futile task to make a eulogy to me as my greatness confounds mere description: sheer genius, abundant originality, charismatic, scholarly, erudite, charming, eloquent, grandiloquent, humble, modest, self-effacing, visionary, a right boyo, blessed among the women, historian supreme, most innovative and original thinker and above all else, wily, that wily boy from beside the mine pits. It is always gold and silver for the Barrystown children. Omniscient is another appropriate superlative; my legions of readers may, as a homework exercise, look it up in the dictionary. If it is true, it ain’t bragging. In Goldsmith’s poem “The Deserted Village” the people are amazed, in regard to the local schoolmaster “that one small head could carry all he knew.” My schoolmaster, Mr Healy, read and discussed this poem with his pupils in Clonroche National School many years ago.

I me that great servant of Bannow Historical Society, Rich Howlin, in Wexford on Friday.

My hollyhocks are stretching up and my sun-flowers are now coming into their customary majestic efflorescence. The fragrance of my tall lilies is wafting out onto the road.

On Tuesday September 29th I will give a lecture at Clonroche Community Centre at 8.30pm on the history of Hurling and the Cloughbawn senior hurlers from 1947 to 1952; there was a poetic touch to the latter. The big losers on that night will be the negligible number who will stay away. In Copenagh Co. Kilkenny, in 1838, Tom Boyse addressed a meeting to protest against the Tithes: he jested about the part—by much the smaller—of Co. Wexford that had not come to the meeting. I will now outline a controversy over hurling that Mr Leigh of Rosegarland initiated; in fairness to him it may have been the case that his situation as Chairman of Taghmon Petty Sessions obliged him to do so.

In January 1862 the plaintiff in an assault case at Taghmon Petty Sessions said that on Sunday January 5th he was with others looking at some gorgeous hurling at Newcastle. At the conclusion of the Sessions Mr Leigh of Rosegarland, the Chairman, said that the order of the court was “that the Constabulary ascertain the names of the parties engaged at hurling and have them summoned for violation of the Sabbath.”

In late January 1862 at an extraordinary Petty Sessions at Taghmon, Constable Byrne summoned a group of young men for hurling at Newcastle on Sunday January 5th but the witness that the Constable relied on refused to give any evidence useful to conviction. Two of the young men admitted the offence and were fined a shilling and costs. Mr Leigh of Rosegarland, a man of severe Protestant disposition, was on the bench but not it the chair. The Petty Courts generally were loath to apply this anachronistic law—one of the magistrates, Captain Harvey of Kyle, in a letter of protest to the newspapers stated that he did not know such a law existed; he had permitted young fellows to play hurling in a field of his.

I quote from the report by Agricola on a match held near Ballinkeele on April 30th 1864:–

“Hence, the difficulty which the clergy experience in preventing the youth of their flocks from hurling and other out-door sports on the afternoon of the Sabbath—Latterly, the police authorities have come to their assistance, having hunted up some old musty statute of the reign of William the Third. That law was enacted, I believe, to prevent the political gatherings of the scattered adherents of the faded fortunes of the Stuart dynasty, under the guise of hurling matches.”

In 1819 Dr Murphy, Bishop of Ferns, prohibited all ball games, presumably on a Sunday: his fear was of the impetuous urge to violence characteristic of large gatherings in that era. Men erupted in feral violence without observable reason in those times; alcohol may have been a factor in that. The law of William of Orange on hurling was undoubtedly a penal law, directed against the Catholics; an Orange element in the Constabulary was resorting to this anachronistic law at a time when the tides of opinion in both Britain and Ireland had surged against them. The Stuart Kings were comparatively sympathetic to the Catholic community in Ireland—King James who was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne was one of them; a section of the landlords were supporters of the Stuarts and in modern history they mutated into allies of the Whig/Liberal Party, which supported Catholic Emancipation and an end to the odious tithes. These landlords were sympathetic to native culture; in Co. Wexford the Carews and Colcloughs of Duffry Hall promoted hurling on their estates. Hurling was emblematic of varying degrees of opposition to English rule in Ireland—in the 1830s it was associated with the White Feet, bands of agrarian terrorists and in latter times it became identified with the Gaelic Revival and the separatist nationalism of Easter 1916.

Back in 1860 some of the courts reasoned that:–

“it would appear….that the Act was passed for the purpose of putting down disorderly meetings held on the Lord’s day, under the pretence of hurling….” and not to prevent ordinary hurling matches.

I am unsure if this daft law was repealed or if it passed into desuetude.

The Irish Times on Saturday September 8th, 1883 carried this report:–

“Our New Ross correspondent sends the following account of the poison cases which occurred at a place called Rosegarland, about eleven miles from New Ross, causing the death of two persons and the illness of no less than forty. It seems that on Friday, the 24th August, Mr F. A. Leigh J. P. of Rosegarland, discovered that one of his cattle, grazing on a farm named Tinnecarrig, about seven miles from his residence, was sick with dry murrain. He decided, as was the custom in such cases, to slaughter it, salt it, and give it to his labourers to eat during the harvest. Accordingly, the heifer was shot by Mr Leigh’s son on Saturday 25th and salted by his herd. Part of it was boiled. The meat was served out to labourers in the harvest field with bread and beer by Mr Leigh’s son. On Thursday Dr Cardiff, the dispensary doctor, received messages to attend 28 sick labourers of Mr Leigh’s. He visited them and found them suffering from irritant poisoning, complaining of headache, furious vomiting and excessive diarrhoea and extreme thirst. One of them, a young man, named Patrick Furlong, was in a morbid state, the surface of his body quite cold and the pulse imperceptible. On Friday morning he died. The doctor then made inquiries and found that all the sick persons had eaten of the meat supplied by Mr Leigh to his workmen. On Saturday and Sunday Dr Cardiff’s patients had increased to 40, which not only included all the men who had eaten of the meat in the harvest field but other persons not working with Mr Leigh, as it seems the men brought small quantities of it home with them and gave it to their families and other persons. On Sunday morning another person named James Whelan died. The quantity of meat served out to each person was about half a pound and so venomous was the poison that it prostrated two families of about eight persons of whom a girl named Doyle is not expected to live. The sick on Tuesday numbered 45 and five of these are not expected to live over the night.

An inquest was held on the body of Patrick Furlong, aged 24, the son of a widow.

His mother deposed that on Tuesday, the 27th of August, he went to work with Mr Leigh as usual but returned home in the forenoon and complained of a sick stomach. He went to bed but was unable to remain in it from vomiting. On Wednesday and Thursday he was in the same condition and on Friday he died. He was not subject to a sick stomach and appeared quite healthy on the day before the 27th.

Dr Cardiff deposed that he was medical officer for Carrigbyrne District. On Thursday, 28th August, he received twenty-eight red tickets to visit patients in his district. Some of the tickets were from Mr Leigh. He visited the patients and found them suffering from the symptoms of irritant poisoning, complaining of headache, furious vomiting, excessive diarrhoea, thirst, and a feeling of sinking and debility. The worst cases only had diarrhoea. He visited Patrick Furlong. He was in a morbid state, his face was extremely cold, his pulse almost imperceptible and he had vomiting. He recommended stimulants and warm applications and afterwards sent him some medicine. He visited him on the 31st and saw him dead. He had heard that the beef got at Rosegarland was blamed for producing the illness. Furlong told him he had eaten about half a pound of it. His intellect appeared quite clear. He inquired about the meat in other places and found that some of the men had brought some of the meat home and the families who had eaten of it were more or less ill and the amount of illness appeared to correspond with the amount of meat consumed. He had not the slightest doubt that the persons were suffering from irritant poisoning and he believed that the deleterious substance was conveyed in the beef eaten by them. He had examined the beef cooked and uncooked at Rosegarland on the 31st and found it to all appearance perfectly good. Mr Leigh told him it had dry murrain and he (Dr Cardiff) did not consider that disease would render the beast unfit for human use.

Mr Francis A. Leigh deposed that on Friday 24th August, he went to Tinnecarrig and found one of his cattle there ailing with dry murrain. He sent his shepherd for the beast and on the following morning had it slaughtered and boiled and gave orders that half a pound of the meat should be given to each workman. He left home on Monday and did not return till Tuesday night.

Robert Leigh deposed to shooting the beast on Saturday morning and seeing it bled, cut up and salted. There was no madness on the beast.

Mary Duffin deposed that she cooked the meat in Mr Leigh’s farmyard on Saturday in the usual way. The utensil it was boiled in was quite clean.

Edward Leigh deposed to serving out the meat to the workmen with the steward.

Robert Patterson deposed to serving out the meat. Gave deceased, Furlong, a piece. Eat a piece himself and was not sick.

John M’Queen, shepherd to Mr Leigh, brought the heifer to Rosegarland. Saw nothing wrong with her except dry murrain. He brought home seven pounds of the meat to his own home and salted it himself. He, his wife, and a child of seven years ate it and experienced no ill effects. The salt, he had, came from Mr Leigh’s house.

On Monday, 3rd of September, an inquest was held on the body of James Whelan, a workman of Mr Leigh’s, aged 60, who leaves a wife and three children. He died on Sunday the 2nd.

The evidence was essentially the same as in the former inquest except that Dr Cardiff deposed to making a post-mortem examination of the body with Dr J. W. Boyd of New Ross. Found the liver and kidney healthy but the stomach very much congested with irritant poisoning, from which he died.

Joseph Whelan deposed to the salting of the meat. He use two kinds of salt which he got in Mr Leigh’s larder—a fine and coarse salt.

The inquest was adjourned to Friday next to have the stomach of the deceased man and the samples of the meat, salt, and beer used analysed by Dr Cameron.

The jury on the first inquest returned a verdict of death from irritant poisoning.

The affair has caused the greatest excitement in the surrounding country. The man Whelan was buried yesterday and more deaths are expected.”

The inquest was adjourned and when it resumed the Coroner, Mr O’Farrell pointed out that no more deaths had occurred nor were any further deaths anticipated. The Leighs and some veterinary experts insisted that the consumption of the meat of such a deceased animal would not normally cause sickness, let alone death but the conundrum then is this:–why was this meat then given only to the labourers? It was certainly clear that this animal could not slaughtered by a commercial butcher and its meat sold on his premises. There would have to be a perception that there was something wrong with the meat of a heifer that died from murrain.

Mr James Mc Kenna Veterinary Surgeon investigated the case for the Freeman’s Journal and after a thorough investigation concluded that—“The flesh of sick animals undergoes a more rapid change than that of healthy animals. The meat of this sick animal was not eaten by those who were poisoned for 79 hours after it had been killed and in 24 hours afterwards some of the meat that remained was so bad that it could not be offered to the labourers. In the absence of another poison being definitely ascertained the probability is that the cause of the deaths of two and sickening of the others may be attributed to the meat, which at the time it was used, was undergoing rapid putrefaction. Thus cause of death is, no doubt, of much more frequent occurrence than is generally known.”

The Freeman’s Journal (a newspaper favouring the Irish Party and popular causes) may have deemed the story as detrimental to the reputation of Mr Leigh, a man of severe Conservative disposition. In fairness to Mr Leigh it should be stressed that, at the very least, he did not deliberately intend to kill any of his labourers. The giving of the meat to the labourers was intended as a kind gesture and they were also given milk, bread and beer. It cost him nothing to do this apart from the labour employed to cook it—a heifer with the murrain was valueless, anyway. It may have represented a wonderful treat for men and their families who never eat beef.

There was one ominous sign: on the 28th of August, the next day after the heifer was killed (humanely I note) the smell from some of the meat was so bad that it was given to the dogs (but they showed no after ill-effects). M’Queen, the herd at Rosegarland, claimed that he brought some of the meat home with him and boiled it; he and his family ate it and had no ill effects. Maybe he was merely saying that he brought the meat home etc, in order to vindicate the Leighs with whom he had a comparatively good job? The Leighs were seriously amiss not to have dumped the meat on the 28th of August when it began to smell.

From The Daily Journal October 2, 1729:–

“We hear from Waterford that [on] the 16th passionate words arising between  R. Rylands of Dungarvan, Esq., and Samuel Boyse, Member of Parliament for Bannow in the county of Wexford, at a tavern with some friends, after the company was gone, they drew their swords and the latter received a dangerous wound in his breast.”

Sam Boyse later died from this wound.

Writing on July 1st 1823 from The Grange, Taghmon, to The Royal Dublin Society, Tom Boyse discoursed on the Parochial Committee in Bannow. He referred to the task “of appropriating the grant of £30; the distribution of which has been confided to my superintendence by the Committee of “The Society of Improving the Conditions of The Irish Peasantry”.

The Parochial Committee having yesterday accomplished the judicial labours, I have now to state that my earnest expectation relative to effects likely to be produced in this place by the munificent interest which the Society has evinced in the well-being of Irishmen has been largely, indeed, realised. Indeed the minute neatness with which the details recommended by the Society’s Committee have in some instances been acted upon has, perhaps, exceeded the measure of decent embellishment which might be fairly deemed to appertain to the dwelling of a labouring peasant.”

Mr Boyse regretted that “there remains still competitors (after a repeated reduction and sub-division of each premium) whose meritorious exertions will not allow us to reach, but which it must be my care to mark by some other model of requital.”

He asserted that, with the co-operation of Fr Edward Murphy, the Catholic inhabitants had made a very obvious improvement:–

“Upon the bona fide and zealous co-operation of the parish pastor of that persuasion [Catholic], in compliance with the suggestion of the Committee, we have in several instances, effected the removal of the pig sty and the dung heap from the front of the house and I have no doubt that it will follow in many more [exclusively Roman Catholic]. The substitution of a little grass plot, flower bed on gravelled walk in front” was another of Mr Boyse’s suggestions. He boasted and a fine boast it was!

“during the five years that I have acted as magistrate of this county, I have not had occasion to take cognizance of a complaint for a common assault in Bannow or indeed of any other infraction of the peace.”